| Home | News| Living in China| MMS | SMS | About us | Contact us|
 Language Tips > zhangxin

Happy folks are all in Iceland - what gives?  

Happy folks are all in Iceland - what gives?

A reader asks:

"In a poll of 18 nations, the Gallup Organization discovered that Icelanders are the happiest people alive. Eighty-two percent say they are satisfied with their personal lives. The United States ranked fifth at 72 percent; Japan came in seventh at 42 percent…"

Iceland is no utopia. Icelanders are big boozers, with a fishing tradition of binge drinking. Almost a third of the births are out of wedlock. But that's what makes the Gallup study so interesting. Icelanders have problems like the rest of us, yet they are happy with their lot. So what gives? ..."

The above is part of an article I read. My question is with the last sentence (So what gives?). I don't get it. It doesn't look like a complete sentence to me. There's probably some kind of typo error or other? What do you think?"

Well, there's nothing seriously amiss with "So what gives" - it may stand on its own without feeling sorry for being curt.

The only thing amiss, if you push for it, is your lack of understanding about the nonsensical nature of the English language - sometimes English just makes no sense - and not just to the Chinese, either.

Take the game of basketball, for example. It's a game in which players move up and down the court trying to put a ball through a hoop called basket. In English, moving up the court and moving down the court, however, means exactly the same thing, though they look to be direct opposites.

So, what gives? Precisely.

Anyway, "what gives" is just another way of saying "what's going on."

It's often used in such situations as described in the article above, where one feels a bit confused. It's effectively saying, "What's happening here? I don't understand."

A few examples:

The headline of a news report reads: Good Economy, Bad Polls, What Gives?



This comes from a man in a dating dilemma, a constant refrain, actually:

"What gives?

Why does she tell me to call her and then, when I do call, sometimes more than five times a day, never answers the phone? Why does she grow colder the more we spend time together? What's wrong with her?"

There's nothing wrong with her, if you ask me. Can you please stop calling her 12 times a day (or five is it, you say)? That's what gives, dude. All other women who are reading this are perhaps tired of you, too.


This, from a woman in a similar quandary:

"There seems to be a pattern with us. I am always pleasing him. And he doesn't please me. He left this morning and has yet to call me. I know he is home but yet he doesn't even call me. Only last night, he told me he is really attracted to me. So what gives then?"I don't get it. For a new relationship (we met two months ago), is this the way to act towards a new woman in one's life? Shouldn't he be trying to impress me? Can someone tell me their thoughts on this?"

Again, this is a perfectly confusing situation to put "what gives" to use. These two both used the expressions right, which is about the only thing they did right - ah, well, at least they have not lost their head entirely.

As for my thoughts, I think it's she who created that "pattern" (I am always pleasing him. And he doesn't please me), it is therefore her problem to deal with.

Men or women alike, if you kiss ass, an ass (as in, what an ass he is) is often what you get.

Have you ever heard of the expression, "kick ass"? If an ass, it is sometimes better for kicking rather than licking.

However, they are perfectly entitled to keep doing it their way without bothering about what others may think.

And to keep wondering - what gives?


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for future use in this column.


Go to Other Sections
Story Tools
Copyright by chinadaily.com.cn. All rights reserved

None of this material may be used for any commercial or public use. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.